I'm a journalist, director and producer of the award-winning documentary on women tech founders "She Started It." – Nora PoggiFeatured

Hello Elpha!I'm Nora Poggi, journalist, director and producer of the award-winning documentary on women tech founders called "She Started It" with my co-founder @insiyahss. We filmed over 3 years in Silicon Valley, New York, Vietnam and Europe. The film follows 5 incredible young women, including Sheena Allen, Stacey Ferreira and Thuy Truong, throughout the ups and downs of their entrepreneurial journey. It also features amazing women such as Megan Smith, former CTO of the US, @christine of Intel Capital, @guo of Greylock Partners and Ruchi Sanghvi, co-founder of Cove that was acquired by Dropbox. Over the course of filming and touring, we have met with and talked to hundreds of entrepreneurs, VCs, and experts of the tech ecosystem. Since its festival release in 2016, the film has screened at over 400 venues in 35+ countries and in places such as the Grace Hopper Conference, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Disney, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, The World Bank, and many more. She Started It was featured in NYT's Women in The World, Fast Company, Glamour, Forbes, Inc Magazine, among others.Before and during that journey, I also worked as a tech reporter for French publication Usine Nouvelle covering Silicon Valley news and entrepreneurship.Ask me anything about pitching media and getting the attention of journalists, telling the story of your brand or company, what it's like to partner with big tech companies, overall tech and venture capital ecosystem, networking advice, or something else!
Thank you, Nora for being with us this week! Post your questions for Nora before Thursday. She may not have time to answer every single one, so upvote the ones you’d most like her to answer.
Hi Nora, how can we work? I’m looking to make a documentary and would like a Blockchain/Crypto visual sharing my interviews and behind the scenes of the entrepreneurial journey for some top Blockchain companies. Check out my YouTube channel:
Hi Jules, if you have specific questions about the filmmaking process (are you making a feature? a series?) feel free to email me at [email protected] about your questions. I took a quick look at your channel, don't forget there's a lot of women in blockchain worth profiling, not just the guys!:) Good luck, this is a great topic!
Hi Nora, If you have any women in the industry you know that would be great as an interviewee I would love a connection. I have requested a good amount of women to interview, although I received no feedback or response. I will be reaching out to you via e-mail to ask specific questions about making both a feature and series to help the masses learn more about the backend of the technology, fundamentals and benefits for migrants and those from unbanked regions of the world. Thank you for your response and feedback! I appreciate you and your expertise.
Hi Nora-I have been using out Twitter handle to engage with tech writers and then hope to pitch our story once we launch and have an engagement history with them. Thoughts on this strategy? Thank you!!
Hi! This is a great strategy, just try to be as specific as possible, reach out to people whose reporting you relate to or that is relevant to what you're doing. Be yourself, authentic and add to the conversation showcasing your expertise but also showing that you want to have a dialogue and appreciate what they have to say. Yes, it's a good idea to build relationships early! Also try to do that in person at events! Local journalists are also worth pitching, wherever you live!
Getting press feels like such an impossible task. How do you get your product in front of reporters and journalists and convince them to talk about it? I mean they're getting hundreds of emails every day, and there's so many crazy things happening. Plus there's so many publication platforms now. Is pitching to Vice a better idea than the NYT? Just, any tips you have for how to get started on this would be so appreciated. I feel like my app, Fantasy Congress (fantasy sports for politics) and my story are interesting but I am so overwhelmed by where to even start with this process.
Hi! I totally understand what you mean, it feels tough but it's doable! here are some tips:1) Personalize. (which is true for every e-mail.) Make a spreadsheet of journalists who care about your topic (be as specific as possible), and reference their work when emailing them to show that you’ve done your research. I can't tell you the number of emails I receive about industries I do not cover! You can find a lot of journalists by reading press on your industry/themes you cover. Their info is super easy to find, so the number 1 task is targeting.2) Writing your pitch: be short and to the point. Journalists receive so many pitches, they don’t have time to read a novel.3) Do the work for them. Journalists do not have time to understand why your project could be a newsworthy or interesting article. Detail how and why this is newsworthy and worth covering, so half of their work is done. (Pro tip: if you cant come up with anything, take a closer look to identify what makes your project unique and relevant.) Try to write a paragraph about your story and read it out loud to friends and family members. Does this feel like you? Does this feel interesting and authentic?
Cool, thanks for the tips! If you have time for one more, I'd love to know what makes something newsworthy. Given today's environment, are journalists looking for pieces that generate the most clicks or shares? Or is it about how large the impacted audience is and the gravity/scope of that impact?
@aselbod I would add that you might have connections you don't even know about. It's worth asking around who knows who, even starting with your local newspaper, and going to events where you can meet journalists in person!
Thank you, Nora and congrats for your success!Love to learn more about how you pitched the idea and were able to cut through the noise. The media business is very noisy and too many loud voices. Hard to show traction, well, there is nothing to show traction with at the beginning. How did you make it work? Did you already have a small YouTube channel, etc.?
Hi Hoda, indeed we are saturated with content so it can be tough to cut through the noise. We were lucky to be the first ones on this topic - we started filming and fundraising in 2013, and there was barely any media on women tech founders, let alone a film. That changed quickly thankfully, but I'm sure being there first helped a lot.We got people's attention also by doing a crowdfunding campaign with a lot of passion to solve a problem that had not been solved. We got our first article in The Huffington Post thanks to a connection my co-founder Insiyah Saeed had, she pitched it and our campaign was written about. It was much harder to sustain attention in later years with all the content on this topic, but we always focused on what made our project unique: following young women founders over time, showing the behind the scenes not just in a snippet interview, but over many years of filming. That was unique and we honed in on that and the incredible women in the film, whose stories were also unique. If you stay consistent and authentic, nurture the few people who are interested in what you do, and keep carving that niche of yours, you can get people's attention.
Thank you, Nora. Congrats again on your success. The crowdfunding campaign seems to be a great way to create some momentum.
I don't have a question, but this is awesome, Nora 😀 I love documentaries so I'm so excited to watch this! 🎉
Thank you so much!:) The film is not online but it's available for community/educational/corporate screenings. I hope we can work out something with Elpha members too. In the meantime, more info here:
I hope so, too! Lookin' at you @cadran @kuan 👀
Hi @Nora, great to have you hear! It was a pleasure to facilitate the "She Started It" screening at UMass Amherst a couple of years ago. No question here but just wanted to acknowledge your awesomeness. Thanks for doing what you do!!
Yay! Thank you so much for championing the film. We should do it again! Hope all is well with you!
What are some concrete steps we can take to develop and tell a good story about our brand? There are so many resources out there, and what truly works?
Be as authentic as possible, that's where the power of your brand comes from. To develop your story, don't hesitate to do a team brainstorming session and list all the reasons why you started this company. Go as deep and personal as possible. From there, craft a paragraph articulating why this is a problem worth solving and why you are the person to solve it. There are a number of consulting firms who can help you do that, but I always recommend to do this first so you don't get charged a lot of money for something that you can start doing yourself. Share with friends and family members to see if they think it feels authentic. Test out the message with your core audience and any customers you already have. Refine accordingly. After that, if you have a lot of branding development to do, it's worth considering bringing professionals on board.
Hey Nora!Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions on here!During the filmmaking process what was one the that struck you about filming top executive women in their environment, across different cultures? Thanks again for your time!
Hi! The thing that struck us the most was that they all had an incredible amount of grit and resilience. The film became about that, because they faced so many obstacles but they kept going. Keep in mind this was pre-metoo, we started filming in 2013, and the conversation was very different than it is today. They all tried to adjust and fit in a male-dominated industry, which led to struggles and frustration, but they were all incredibly resilient. Never give up sounds like a cliché, but it's true, we've seen it first hand. I was struck at the time by the lack of support they had from societal structures and thankfully that is changing, although not fast enough.
Hi Nora, thanks for taking the time to do this! Some questions:1) When it comes to press and submitting stories, are there certain themes (e.g. certain industries/topics) that are more seasonal than others? If so, how far ahead of time should we be considering submission? 2) I heard that there are publicly available, free databases with contact details for journalists which people use to pitch to. Would you recommend this and if so, how should we research this? I'm based in the UK but feel free to share US media resources too! 3) Twitter has been highly recommended when it comes to interacting with stories and journalists alike. What are some of the most interesting and effective ways that you've seen this being done?Thank you! :)
Hi Lisa, 1) Publications always have editorial calendars (think Entrepreneurship Week, Women's History Month, Elections, etc.) so you can make a list of those relevant to you and indeed it's good to provide several months of lead time to build a relationship and ping the journalist so they have time to do their reporting. However, if you are launching a product, do a first round of "early access" a few months ahead but the heavy lifting should be done close to product launch. Ping consistently, journalists are busy, without getting too intense. 2) I have never used this, so, to be honest, I don't know, but nowadays there are lists available for everything. I responded to a similar question above: whatever you use, the number 1 task is targeting. Make a spreadsheet of journalists who care about your topic (be as specific as possible), and reference their work when emailing them to show that you’ve done your research. I can't tell you the number of emails I receive about industries I do not cover! You can find a lot of journalists by reading press on your industry/themes you cover. Their info is super easy to find, usually on the publication or on their twitter. Use rocketreach otherwise to get email addresses (not free). If you use a list, go through it to personalize the heck out of it.3) Yes, Twitter is terrific, journalists use it a lot. It's always about being really specific and authentic. Be yourself, write about stuff you know and care about, but also be specific when you comment or reach out to someone. What do they care about? Where do they stand on this issue? Consistent pinging but not stalkish is a good balance to strike also!
Hi - thank you for being here! How did you get the funding for doing such a documentary?
Hi Jessica, it was an entrepreneurial journey in and of itself! With my co-founder Insiyah Saeed, for the production and the following impact campaign of the doc, we did several things: - 2 crowdfunding campaigns (on Indiegogo)- raising tax deductible donations from like-minded individuals who became Exec Producers, Co-Producers, etc. Apart from the title, they cared about women in tech and equal opportunities for women and girls. A lot of networking and pitching went into it. It helped that we were both located in the Bay Area where a lot of these folks are easier to meet.- our own savings- a grant from the US Embassy in Paris- we did a lot of self-funding for the impact campaign by distributing the film and re-injecting revenue into our operations It was tough, but an incredible journey ! Filmmakers are a lot more like entrepreneurs than we'd think!
Hello @NoraThank you in advance for all of your feedback.Questions on all of the above ... Everything you stated about getting the attention of journalists, telling your brand story, pitching media, partnering with big tech companies etc. would be extremely insightful. Can we all just grab coffee to hear about your journey ?
Hi Joana, I'm in NYC but we can all grab a coffee next time I'm in SF for sure! :) I answered a bunch of those questions above, so I'll just add something about partnering with tech companies since that has not been asked yet. We were fortunate enough to do screening events with Google, Apple, Twitter, Microsoft, Disney, and so many more. I think it's really important to try all possible connections to get a warm introduction. Even just checking on LinkedIn who knows who, but also by networking in person. We went to a lot of events. Then, make sure your pitch spells out why this is of interest to them specifically. Be as precise as possible, do your research - why do they care about this issue? Without bragging, it's also important to showcase all your accomplishments and why your company is a moving train that is worth their time. Hope this helps!